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Brookline’s Bryan Fuller gears up for a new challenge: rowing from Boston to London

Bryan Fuller in his Harvard Street fitness studio, Power Rowing. Photo by Andrew Burke-Stevenson
May 2, 2024  Updated May 6, 2024 at 12:01 p.m.
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For seven weeks this summer, Brookline resident and business owner Bryan Fuller will trade his Harvard Street workplace for a 28-foot rowboat in the North Atlantic Ocean, traveling from Boston to London.

Fuller, the 54-year-old founder of Power Rowing, will cover 3,275 miles of sea as part of a team of four over the estimated 50-day London Calling Row. It all starts June 1 around 10 a.m. from Menino Park in Charlestown. Fewer than 50 people have finished the route, ever.

At Power Rowing, a fitness studio filled with rowing machines, Fuller coaches more than a dozen classes per week, fully participating in all of them for his own training purposes. He lives a few doors down from the business and has called Brookline home for about a decade and formerly served as a Town Meeting member.

Fuller’s crewmates for journey are Dr. John Lowry, a sports medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, two-time World Indoor Rowing Versa Champion Elizabeth Gilmore and Wales resident Klara Anstey, an accomplished rower with experience in the difficult waters of the Thames River and southern England.

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The cause

“The challenging part is exciting but not the reason I picked it,” Fuller told Brookline.News. “This is the opportunity to get really big sponsors and take care of this program.”

That program is Community Rowing, a Brighton-based non-profit organization and the only public access rowing program on the Charles River that, in many ways, changed Fuller’s life.

Community Rowing oversees a military program as one of its offerings, where veterans like Fuller and active-duty military personnel take co-ed classes and compete in national regattas. A U.S. Army veteran, Fuller joined Community Rowing’s free military programming in 2011. Crew works well for those with military ties, Fuller said, waking up early to work with a leader and team and a clearly defined, consistent role.

“We acclimated to it so easily,” Fuller said. “It made a huge impact on my life.” He’s set a goal of raising $50,000 for the veterans program.

Ted Benford, Community Rowing’s executive director, described Fuller as “incredibly generous and genuine.”

“It comes from his heart, which is something that you can’t manufacture or engineer and something that we’re incredibly grateful for,” Benford said. “What he’s doing is a really powerful and meaningful thing for veterans, rowers and raising awareness for veterans and the opportunities where they can find mental and physical health.”

A Hamilton native and Hamilton-Wenham High School alum, Fuller studied politics at UMass. The day after graduating, Fuller traveled to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for bootcamp. He arrived to over-100 degree temperatures, which dropped to the negative 20s by the fall.

“I don’t recommend Leonard Wood to anybody,” Fuller said. “I’ve never seen anything so dramatic.”

Fuller served for five years, doing counterintelligence work focused on espionage, terrorism and war criminals. He left the military in 1999 and went back to school, graduating with a master’s in business administration from Boston University in 2004. Fuller worked as a financial auditor for, in his words, “the biggest and worst corporations.” for around a decade before moving on in 2016. He felt burnt out, unhappy and without a professional purpose.

“It was probably a combination of me destroying my own career and them being like ‘why don’t you get out of here,” Fuller said. “I was let go but I probably did it to myself.”

Fuller sold his South Boston condo and went to Bali on a self-discovery mission. Upon his return, Fuller took out a loan to open what he said is the first rowing studio of its kind in New England. He’s overseen the indoor rowing studio’s operations and taught classes since it opened in 2017.

“I wanted to do something that was gratifying emotionally,” Fuller said.

The team and the boat

Gilmore, who resides in Virginia, heard of the opportunity through mutual friends with Fuller. She has some serious backpacking experience, but nothing like this. After consulting with her family, Gilmore decided to give it a go.

“I have some familiarity with roughing it but this is going to be nothing like what I’ve ever done before,” Gilmore said. “A lot of this is going to be mental.”

Lowry grew up with Fuller, attending school together since kindergarten. Lowry kept up with Fuller’s last long journey, and when a spot on the London Calling Row opened up, Lowry jumped at it despite fairly minimal rowing experience. They flew out to Utah together to look at the boat which “sealed the deal.”

“I’m going into this with a very open mind,” Lowry said. “To pull something like this off you have to be physically and mentally resilient and ready to deal with any situation. My expectations are to train for the long haul but keep my mental attention on what’s going on day-to-day, moment-to-moment.”

The 28-foot row boat features small cabins on each side where crewmembers sleep. They row two hours on, two hours off during the day and five hours on, five hours off at night. So each crew member rows 12 hours per day and the boat moves all 24. With a newly installed Starlink internet connector, drone, two cameras, and a bevy of solar panels, Fuller plans to document the journey in real time on the London Calling website.

The travel pattern looks like this: 40 days from Boston to the Isles of Scilly, about 30 miles off the English mainland. From there, it’s a 5-10 day travail through the English channel and a handful of peninsulas, then up the Thames River into London.

Fuller is holding a fundraising event on May 5 at Power Rowing for the team’s logistics day, where they’ll load the boat for the journey ahead.

“It’s actually a really important day for us, but it’s a great day for people in Brookline,” Fuller said.

When Fuller returns to town in mid-July he’ll go back to teaching, and hitting up his favorite places like Martin’s Coffee Shop, Brookline Spa and Garrison House.

“I’m around Brookline Village all the time,” Fuller said. “If there’s a mayor, it’d be me.”

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